09 June 2023, The Tablet

Cafod warns of devastating drought in Kenya

“We are face to face with the effects of climate change,” say Cafod partners from Kenya.

Cafod warns of devastating drought in Kenya

The Bishop of Marsabit, Peter Kihara Kariuki, during his visit to London.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Cafod partners from Northern Kenya, visiting London last week, described the impact of five years of drought and requested continuing support from the UK.

Cafod, the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales and part of Caritas Internationalis, has supported communities in East Africa recover from the worst drought in 40 years. It has partnered with the Diocese of Marsabit for over three decades.

“Climate change is no longer a narrative that you discuss, but is a reality we are facing,” said Isacko Jirma, director of Caritas Marsabit. 

“Unfortunately, the people who are bearing the brunt of climate change are people who have no idea of what is happening in the environment and in the atmosphere,” he added.

Marsabit is a semi-arid location some 310 miles north of the capital Nairobi, where 80 per cent of its people rely on livestock for income. Jirma reported that most of their animals and crops are dead.

It finally rained in April, he said, but “recovery will be long, and the need is great”. Around 300,000 people are facing food shortages.

“Those who are causing harm to the environment, for the sake of people who are not in the know and who are bearing the brunt, need to look at conserving the environment,” he said.

Jirma called for support for climate change adaptation and funding for new ways forward. He said Caritas Marsabit is looking for resources to carry out restocking for the families who lost all they had in the drought as well as fees and food for children to return to school.

Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit thanked Cafod for its support and urged Catholics in England and Wales to continue supporting the people of Marsabit – particularly young people, whom he described as a “needy generation”.

Young people who who would once have shepherded livestock now have nothing to do. “It’s very easy for them to erupt into a conflict between themselves,” he said.

He was keen for young people to acquire the skills they need to secure long-term employment in their own country rather than look to migrate for a better life elsewhere, such as in Europe. “We do not want that to happen,” he said, “because we shall lose out. We need them to capacity-build in order to help, to upgrade their standard and that of their society.”

He pointed out that Caritas Marsabit assists everyone in need, regardless of their religion.

“A hungry person – Catholic, Protestant or Muslim – is the same. That is our policy. We don’t discriminate whether in education, in our hospitals or the rest.”

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